Monday, May 2, 2016

Discourses - Epictetus

Epictetus is a Stoic philosopher, but that doesn't really convey him.  Epictetus is distilled into the 200 proof Stoicism.  He is hardcore.  His worldview is stark and uncompromising.  If someone robs you of a lamp, then you have only suffered the loss of a lamp; the robber has the worse result: the life of a thief.  It's bracing and chilling at the same time.
There is a lot that I like about the Stoics. There is a strong effort to treat life as it is, instead of what we wish it was.  When tragedy strikes, the Stoic urges us to immediately accept the new normal conditions.  This can be an enormously helpful skill in life.
The break down is in not questioning 'what should be'.  It's as if there is no pursuit of a just life, simply the acceptance that what is, is.  In the above example of the robber, there is no caution to the robber or observation on what the robber does to overall society.  Instead, there is an oblique warning that the life of a thief is bad.  Well, what if the thieves don't think it's so bad?  What if they think it's the best option available from a number of bad ones?  (The one exception from this, strangely, is adultery.  An adulterer wrecks the society around him and shouldn't be put up with.)

Reading Epictetus reminded me in some ways of reading Marcus Aurelius.  Not surprising, given their similar philosophies.  I remember feeling then that Aurelius would be improved by being read in more of a page-a-day manner.  Same here. 
From what I can tell, there is no such item, and that's a shame.  We have Zen and Buddhist page-a-day calendars, but nothing from the Stoics.  Seems like a huge missed opportunity.

No comments:

Post a Comment